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Given Europe's dependence on Russian gas, Western diplomats and hedge fund managers alike are well aware of the risks of punishing Moscow with sanctions after its strong-arm tactics in Crimea.

Tehran, meanwhile, may be calculating the stakes in a somewhat different way. The daily Aftab-e Yazd asked Thursday how could European states and the United States curb Russia's energy exports, when "40% of Germany's gas is supplied from Russia?"

Hmmm, who could help here, the newspaper wondered? Perhaps Iran, a country "with 18% of the world's gas reserves," but currently restrained under its own series of Western sanctions to send most of its energy exports to Turkey.

Tehran is also keen to end its diplomatic isolation and reliance on the goodwill of Russia and China, Aftab-e Yazd noted. Turkey it stated, was intending to double its gas imports from Iran, from 10 to 20 billion cubic meters a year, and "one of the possible reasons for this increase is the exportation of Iranian gas to Europe through the Turkish pipeline."

Handy for all sides, though the daily cautioned "this process will not happen soon." Iran's gas industry it stated "needs extensive reforms and investment," and Iran "currently needs to annually import seven billion cubic meters of gas from Turkmenistan" to meet its own "export commitments."

The daily's commentary reveals a less-often noted factor in Iran's sanctions-hit economy: its ageing industry and transport infrastructure, in need of a major overhaul. Such investments could only follow an end to sanctions on Iran over its contested atomic program.

The situation in Crimea shows how potentially fluid the ongoing talks between Iran and the West can be. Two-way needs and shared interests: the basis of international collaboration for quite some time. Iran was meanwhile pursuing consultations with its ostensible allies, Russia and China, ahead of the next of round of talks on its atomic program, scheduled March 17. The Iranian deputy-foreign minister and member of its negotiating team Abbas Araqchi said in Moscow on Wednesday that the next talks in Vienna would consider the mechanics of lifting energy and banking sanctions on Iran, the official IRNA agency reported. Araqchi spoke after talking for five hours to the Russian Deputy-Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov.

Crunched by Ahmad Shayegan

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FOCUS: Russia-Ukraine War

Fight Over Tourist Visa Ban For Russians Is Taking Everyone For A Ride

High on the agenda of the Prague summit of Europe’s foreign ministers this week was a proposal to ban tourist visas for Russians, as punishment for Putin’s invasion of Ukraine. But it is ultimately a way to change the subject, and recalls Zelensky’s iconic remark after the war began.

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It’s not a new question. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky had called for a ban on tourist visa for Russian soon after the war began, and this week it became the center of the Prague summit of European Union foreign ministers.

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Some European Union nations voiced their support soon after it was mentioned by Zelensky, including former Soviet republics and current Russia neighbors, Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania. They were followed by Finland and the Czech Republic, Denmark, and Poland. Hungary, Portugal, Greece and Cyprus. Germany and France are looking for a compromise that would allow for visas for students, workers of culture and science, as well as people who need entry for humanitarian reason. Perhaps most importantly, however, the U.S. took an unambiguous position against the restrictions.

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